Exclusive: Pelosi Says Bush 'Has to Answer for This War'

Nancy Pelosi Tells ABC News' Diane Sawyer That Democrats Won't Cut Off Funding to Iraq While Troops in Harm's Way

Jan. 19, 2007 —

There may be a growing battle between Congress and President Bush over the Iraq War strategy, but new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she won't block funding for additional troops.

Pelosi's position, revealed in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer, comes days after a group of senators announced a bipartisan resolution condemning the Bush administration's plan to increase U.S. forces in Iraq by more than 20,000 troops.

While the Senate resolution would be nonbinding, it would send a message to the president, and at least a dozen Republican senators have already offered their support.

In the interview with Sawyer, Pelosi said Democrats in Congress would not be held responsible for putting the soldiers in the troop surge in additional harm's way by blocking funds. She also called the situation in Iraq a "tragedy" and a "stark blunder."

Pelosi also spoke to Sawyer about her breaking ground as the first female speaker of the House.

Sawyer:One hundred hours in, what's the word that you would use for yourself in those first 100 hours? Tough? Determined? What's the word?

Pelosi: Accountable. Democrats came into power. We said we were ready to lead, prepared to govern, and that we would make a difference, and we did what we promised we would do in the first 100 hours, to make our country safer, our economy fairer, and the country energy independent.

Sawyer: As we sit here right now, 3,500 troops are moving in. That's the first of the surge. It has begun. Fifty-one percent of the American people say they want Congress to stop the surge. Money is the method at hand to do that.

Are you going to move to cut off funding for troops going into Iraq as part of the surge?

Pelosi: Democrats will never cut off funding for our troops when they are in harm's way, but we will hold the president accountable. He has to answer for his war. He has dug a hole so deep he can't even see the light on this. It's a tragedy. It's a stark blunder.

It is, I think, very difficult for the president to sustain a war of this magnitude without the support of the American people and without the support of the Congress of the United States. That's why Congress will vote to oppose the president's escalation, from the standpoint of policy. We will have our disagreement.

Sawyer: But short of that -- questions posed, resolutions passed -- short of that, are you acquiescing in the surge if the pocketbook is the only other control mechanism?

Pelosi: The president knows that because the troops are in harm's way, that we won't cut off the resources. That's why he's moving so quickly to put them in harm's way, but we will hold the president accountable. He has to answer for his war.

Sawyer: Are [you] saying that the president deliberately manipulated the timing that he sent the troops in order to avoid congressional action?

Pelosi: Well, I would certainly hope he didn't manipulate the timing of sending the troops in. I think he could have told us about it sooner and invited any comments we might have had, any constructive proposals we might have had. We found out about it as the troops were going in.

Sawyer: You have talked about beginning withdrawals in four to six months. Everyone would like to know, what would you propose that we do if suddenly it looks like a complete conflagration? What is the Democratic plan in the event of that?

Pelosi: First of all, [it is] the president's war. He's the one without a plan. But what we have suggested to the president over and over again and that which he has ignored is that you have to have diplomatic and political initiatives in addition to military ones.

The decisions that have been made by the administration have not taken us away from chaos. They have drawn us into it. This is not an obligation of the American people in perpetuity.

Sawyer: Can you fathom any circumstance under which you would say, "No, leave troops there?"

Pelosi: Well, you always evaluate circumstances as they are a threat to the United States and what we do must make the American people safer, not weaken our military, and bring stability to the region.

What the president is doing fails on all three scores.

Sawyer: You must have to meet with families of those who have fallen in Iraq. What do you say when they ask, "Are you saying they died in vain?"

Pelosi:Of course not. I just had the privilege of meeting with the family of a young man that received the Congressional Medal of Honor. He jumped on a hand grenade and saved the lives of other young people in his unit.

And words are inadequate, of course, to console a family. They're very proud, of course, of their son, as we all are, and every single one of the young people, now over 3,000 who have given their lives in Iraq.

No, they did not die in vain. We appreciate what they have done. We applaud them and salute them for their valor, for their patriotism, and the sacrifice they are willing to make.

We just believe that the policy must be change. It's not about them. It's about the president and his policy.

Sawyer: One hundred hours in, do you think the fact that you're female is --

Pelosi: I'll be very honest with you, I didn't realize how much thirst there was for a change, for a change to say that women can do any of these jobs. Interestingly, fathers of daughters have been so excited about the prospect for their daughters.

Women waited, but not just waited, they worked all that time to get full equality in our country, and breaking this marble ceiling, I think, make's the sky the limit for young girls and women. They can do whatever they want. This marble ceiling is a pretty tough ceiling to break.

Sawyer: Here it is. ??? I wondered how long before it was coming. Clothes, somebody writes about clothes. Now, do you say, "Oh, give us a break?" Does it just seem inevitable to you that somebody, if it is female, is worried about clothes?

Pelosi: Clothes and hair.

Sawyer: Clothes and hair.

Pelosi: Clothes and hair. You know what? I don't have any time to think about it, I really don't. But if that's what draws people to pay attention to what's happening in politics, that's OK with me, because important decisions are being made here that affect people's lives and whatever draws them to it makes the process more legitimate and wholesome.

I do believe that women's involvement in the political process and in government is the single most important factor in making government more wholesome, more relevant to the lives of the American people, and more ready for change.